Review: Star Force (VC Arcade)

A huge global hit at the arcades, this classic shooter blasts its way back on Virtual Console!

Star Force was originally released in arcades in 1984 by Tecmo. It was yet another title in the rapidly growing crop of vertical scrolling shooters that were gaining in popularity during the time period. While the game play was still quite basic and didn't show some of the more advanced firepower of later scrolling shooter releases, the game has enjoyed a nice cult following over the years from shooter purists who appreciate it for being one of the earlier scrolling shooter offerings and one that further laid the groundwork for future arcade shooter releases.

Star Force is your basic overheard vertical shooter that features levels that are named after letters of the Greek alphabet. Your task is to shoot your way through each stage of the game, taking out not only airborne enemies, but also installations on the ground as well. Your ship only has two basic types of cannon fire, the default firepower and one small upgrade, but it proves to be effective enough to keep up with the barrage of enemies that swarm your way.

You'll of course get to face off with a boss at the end of each level, but don't get too excited. The bosses are basically just the Greek letters themselves and don't offer up a lot of variety in the way they attack. You get one shot at them as they work their way to the bottom of the screen and if you don't destroy them before they get past your ship, you'll have a play a little more of the level in order to reach them again. Once destroyed, it's on the next letter and so on.

The control in Star Force might feel a bit sluggish by today's shooter standards, but it works quite well within the frame work of the game. The same can be said of the firepower in the game, but once you get used to its lack of spread, you'll be taking down the barrage of enemies in no time. For those who find the game a bit on the difficult side, and it's not a cakewalk by any stretch, you can pull up the game's DIP switch menu by pressing the "-" button that will allow you to add additional ships as well as adjust the difficulty of the game.

The visuals and music in Star Force are about what you'd expect from an early 80's arcade game, but the game does have its moments here and there. Considering the game was developed in 1983, it actually has some fairly impressive visuals for the time period, especially given the constant scrolling the game employs. The scenery doesn't change much from level to level, but you'll be so focused on the enemies constantly swirling around you that you won't have too much time to notice it. The musical tunes are catchy at first, but they can be a bit grating after long periods of play. Of course, truth be told, that could be said of just about any arcade game from the 80's.

Conclusion

If you're a shooter fan that wants to see how the genre of scrolling shooters began, Star Force is a nice reference piece for those who can keep their expectations at a reasonable level. There's plenty of shooting action and just enough variety to keep your attention for a an hour or so, but don't expect much beyond that. Star Force was a great title back in the day, but its lack of game play variety makes the game feel a bit dated by today's shooter standards and makes it a title that will likely only be enjoyed by the most hardcore of shooter enthusiasts.